High school football playoffs | Miami Killian

Killian Cougars are small in stature, big in achievement

 

Killian has shown a knack for overcoming disadvantages and with a victory over Columbus on Friday night can reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2004.

a1fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Killian’s football team is proving that size doesn’t matter.

The Cougars are 10-1 and one victory away from advancing to the Class 8A state semifinals.

They have done this with an undersized offensive line that includes players like Kevin Davis, a 6-1, 215-pound senior left guard that looks more like a linebacker or safety.

On average, their starting linemen weigh no more than 240 pounds.

And their leading rusher is a 5-3, 165-pound senior named Harry Jones.

“We call him our ‘pocket Hercules’ like Maurice Jones-Drew,” Killian senior center Jerome Wiggins said. “He’s not too tall, but he has knocked down tacklers in games and in practice. When he gets going, he packs a punch.”

Killian will attempt to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2004 when it takes on Columbus at 7 p.m. Friday at FIU Stadium in the Region 4-8A final.

The Explorers found out firsthand three weeks ago how much Killian can rise above any disadvantage when the Cougars beat them 21-17 in both teams’ regular-season finale.

Killian is hoping for another such performance that could push the Cougars the furthest they have been in the postseason since they won their lone state title.

“We don’t care what people may say about us because we’re a little smaller than most teams,” senior center Jerome Wiggins said. “We’re going to play bigger every game, and we practice and play to help each other.”

Overcoming a size disadvantage isn’t the only thing Killian has specialized in this season.

The Cougars have had a knack for finding a way to keep the team winning even after key players have been lost to serious injury.

Killian coach Cory Johnson said eight of his top players, including sophomore phenom Jaquan Johnson, are playing both offense and defense. Six of the eight played strictly one or the other before this season.

Killian lost its three top running backs — Rodari Revere (season-ending knee injury), senior Tadam James (knee) and junior Armando Martinez (broken fibula) — in the first three weeks of the season.

Jones, who leads Killian with 727 yards on 106 carries and eight touchdowns, filled in for his teammates.

“Harry doesn’t have the height, but he’s one of the strongest players on the team,” Johnson said. “He can bench about 305 pounds, squat close to 500, and he’s one of the fastest kids on the team.”

Johnson, one of the most highly touted sophomores in the country, is a kick returner and defensive back, and has 620 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on 80 carries.

But one of the biggest surprises in the backfield has been senior Miguel Andrillion (69 carries, 590 yards, five touchdowns), who Johnson said was only supposed to play defensive back and special teams before the season. Junior Jamaal Burgess also has emerged as a big threat with 357 yards and five touchdowns. Burgess had a pair of touchdowns against South Dade in last week’s regional semifinal win.

Johnson gives the credit to his undersized but versatile offensive line that has several players rotating in and out during the game and playing on the defensive line as well.

Talented linebacker Jordan Gibbs (6-1, 210) doubles at left tackle and shares reps with senior Cedric Larsen and senior Christian Rodriguez. Davis starts at left guard with Wiggins, who also plays nose tackle, starting at center. Senior Roy Calatayud (6-2, 240) starts at right guard and Jakari Bolton, the team’s largest lineman at 6-5, 275 pounds, lines up at right tackle.

Johnson said the group has gelled in recent weeks after starting center Joshua Aronson sustained a torn labrum that ended his season.

“These kids are all examples of what it’s all about on this team,” Johnson said. “One falls and the next man steps up.

“There’s no quit and these guys are about doing whatever it takes.”

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